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Connection to Spirit: Is Your Spirit Showing?

by Vivienne Silver-Leigh(more info)

listed in psychospiritual, originally published in issue 96 - February 2004

Look at the shelves in any book shop and you will find sections full of books about spirit by contemporary writers such as Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle and Caroline Myss.

I started reading such books many years ago, being deeply interested in human development and spirituality. I trained in Transpersonal Psychotherapy, which is concerned with the process of development towards wholeness, within each of us. Transpersonal Psychology is a relatively new science, drawing from both Eastern and Western spiritual practices.

Carl Jung first talked about the transpersonal, writing about the mystical side of life, archetypes, mythology, and researching dreams and their meanings. Abraham Maslow, another key founder of Transpersonal Psychology, researched Peak Experiences, the ecstatic moments many scientists and artists experienced when solving a problem or creating a work of art.

Taking Jung's ideas further today are serious academic professionals such as Ken Wilber and Professor Stanislauf Grof, writing and researching and disagreeing with each other about how many levels of human consciousness exist. Professor Grof has dedicated his professional life to the study of 'non-ordinary states of consciousness', and developed a process called Holotropic Breathwork, which has enabled thousands of people to reconnect to their inner selves.

The Transpersonal is the world of mystery, of experiencing strange synchronicities, intuitions, telepathy, and wonder – "the shallows of mysticism" (John Rowan)

It is not a comfortable area for some people, because it is not easy to measure or evaluate. It includes the world of myths, legends, magic and transformation. We may forget this aspect of life, and carry on earning a living and making relationships, feeling a deep ache of loss and emptiness. We miss connection to our intrinsic wholeness, the 'who we really are' factor. I am more than the things I do, I am the one who thinks about them and who sees their relative unimportance in the scheme of life.

Research on the brain in the early 1990s, produced the concept of spiritual intelligence or SQ. A 'God spot' in the temporal lobes of the brain was identified. Spiritual intelligence is "the intelligence that rests in the deeper part of the self that is connected to wisdom from beyond the ego… not culture dependent… SQ helps us to have transpersonal visions of goodness, beauty, perfection, generosity… it helps us to live life at a deeper level of meaning…" (Spiritual Intelligence SQ by Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall). Neurology and technology have united to research this fascinating area in the brain.

We may learn early in life to ignore this aspect of our selves, our inner voice, adjusting instead to the ideas of our families or cultures. Take Paula, a surveyor, who is in a relationship where her partner criticizes her for not being more outgoing and sociable. We worked together for several sessions before she began to honour her inner self, and to understand why she has the defences that have created her personality. Now she is learning to be assertive and to question the criticism she receives. She would be uncomfortable if I used the word 'spirit' with her, so we talk about her inner truth, which seems to me to be the same thing.

William at 25 is a successful high-flying marketing manager, but he has an underdeveloped SQ. He was devastated when his girl friend dumped him, after he had behaved in a way she could not accept. It is taking him a long time to understand that she felt badly treated by him and no longer trusted him. He kept obsessively saying, "I want her back", ignoring her right to make her own decision on the matter.

He cannot see further than his own needs, and is going to have to learn painfully that other people's feelings and values must be respected.

I have deep sympathy for the victims of sexual abuse, who are angry and distressed by events which happened in their childhood. Nancy had turned to alcohol to relieve the feeling of guilt and emptiness she felt about her childhood abuse, and was in despair at the way she now uncontrollably behaved with her boyfriend, being dismissive one moment and warm the next. She gradually came to see that this was the protective action that she had learned. Then she re-discovered her deeper nature, which she hides behind a capable and jolly façade. She wants to live a more loving life with her boyfriend, and to leave the old anger and despair behind her. She is now recovering her lost spirit, experiencing joy and excitement at feeling more in control of her life and her relationship.

Deepak Chopra, in Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, explains that the Ego is not who we really are, it is only a social mask, behind which is our true Self, or Spirit: "We're not human beings that have occasional spiritual experiences – it's the other way around: we're spiritual beings that have occasional spiritual experiences."

When you are feeling ill, sad, or angry, first acknowledge these feelings, but then remember they are transient, that we are more than these experiences. Inner strength is the goal, and we can learn ways to bring it about. Eckhart Tolle says, "Feel the inner body even when engaged in everyday activities, especially when engaged in relationships or when you are relating with nature. Feel the stillness deep inside it. Keep the portal open… stay rooted within. Then observe how this changes your state of consciousness and the quality of what you are doing" (Practising the Power of Now).

Traditionally people used to go to churches to get spiritual uplift. Like me, you may have felt that some churches and some cathedrals, when empty, hold powerful spiritual feelings which resonate with something within you. Being in the countryside brings many of us connection to our inner self, leaving behind the pressures of work and city life. Receiving and giving kindness are some of the most spiritual things we can do, when we give from the heart, and not for gain. Increasing our SQ will help us to live life at a deeper layer of meaning. How to do that is every individual's personal inner quest, and the books listed below may have some directions for you.

Further reading.

Eckhart Tolle. Practising the Power of Now. Hodder & Stoughton. 2002.
Professor Stanislaus Grof. The Adventures of Self-Discover. State University of N.York, Albany. 1988.
Deepak Chopra. The Seven Laws of Spiritual Success. Bantam Press 1996.
Carolyn Myss. Anatomy of the Spirit. Bantam Books. 1996.
John Rowan. The Transpersonal. Routledge. 1998.
Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall. SQ – Spiritual Intelligence. Bloomsbury. 2001.

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About Vivienne Silver-Leigh

Vivienne Silver-Leigh had a career first as a speech therapist, and then became a lecturer in English and counselling. She trained counsellors for five years, and now has a private practice, working as a psychotherapist, from a humanistic/integrative perspective. Following a strong interest in spirituality, she learned yoga and various forms of breathwork and meditation. She can be contacted on e-mail: VSilverl@aol.com

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